The Waste of Worry

I shudder to think how many hours in our lives we waste on worry. We worry about what we do, what we say, what other people may think, what might happen if (fill in your own worry here).

I am still waiting for time spent worrying to pay off. How about you?

Why do we worry in the first place? Do we think if we worry hard enough, we’ll get control over a situation we have no control over? Do we think that if we consider all potential problems and worry about all possible outcomes, we will feel better? Or, maybe worst of all, do we worry so often that we don’t even realize we’re doing it—while meanwhile, it is eating us alive? The truth is, worry usually just leads to less sleep, tightness in our bodies, increased anxiety, and other harmful outcomes. You get the (worry) picture.

Here are a few examples of my worries, and how I have—and continue to—work through them:

Worry #1: I have a love/hate relationship with public speaking. I love to deliver keynotes and facilitate workshops. I hate fostering worries like, “What if they don’t like what I have to say?”

The old me spent months on end reeling about what to say and how to say it, and I wasted incredible amounts of emotional equity and brainpower on one speech. The new me blocks off a specific date on my calendar to map out the presentation, prep, and practice. Now, when worry creeps in, I give myself the gentle reminder that I don’t need to worry about it now—because I’ve got time carved out to create a rockin’ presentation. This was a game changer for me.

Worry #2: My husband and I live in an urban setting with a failing school district. We love our house and our lifestyle, and we hate the thought of someday giving it up because of schools. Our options are stay put and risk the lottery system, send the girls to private school, or move to the suburbs and drastically impact our way of life.

The old us would spend time each week talking about the pros and cons of moving, and we’d both end up annoyed because moving for us (at this point in our lives) means giving up the lifestyle we love. Over our date night a few weeks ago, we landed on our new strategy: We will know when we know. Sometime between today and the day our oldest child needs to be enrolled in school, we will have an answer. For now, we’ll continue to enjoy the lifestyle we love. If and when it feels good to move, we have that option. And how lucky we are to have options?

Worry #3: What if I mess up? This worry can be applied to my everyday life. What if I forget to follow up with a client? What if my presentation slides don’t work? What if I can’t find a babysitter and I have to cancel plans? What if I am not selected?

The old me would get sick over all the potential negative outcomes and beat myself up over even the possibility of imperfection. The new me is kind to myself. Just last week, for example, I realized I hadn’t heard back from a new client. I went to follow up with her and realized I failed to send the kickoff items I had promised to send—which is why she hadn’t scheduled a kickoff meeting. I emailed her immediately and owned up to my mistake, knowing that I do the best I can each day and even then, mistakes happen. Why? I’m human.

So, if you’re anything like me and you’re still waiting for the big payoff from all your worrying, I invite you to cut that cord.

Worry less, enjoy more.

What keeps you up at night? I’d love to know.

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